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The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read themMark Twain
This blog, with the help of a storyline, highlights the importance of reading novels.
“A mighty weapon which you need to place proudly in your intellectual armory to ward off the onslaught of weaknesses and strengthen your morale is to read discriminately and voraciously.” Thus telling Swami Ram took me to his little library which was strikingly embellished by the eclectic collection of books.
The collection comprised of philosophy, self-help, socio-economics, politics, encyclopedias, lexicons, metaphysics, business, voluminous research papers and many more. I was startled to the core witnessing the books galore. One corner of the library accommodated an office table in addition to one easy chair and one rocking chair. The study lamp placed at the side edge of the table increased the seriousness and utility of the latter. An A4 size paper pad was lying under the burden of a polished wooden pen stand containing one fountain pen, one dot pen and one eraser mounted pencil. Three books, namely ‘the life divine’ by Sri Aurobindo, ‘Savitri’ by Sri Aurobindo and a chambers single-volume dictionary, were neatly placed on the middle of the table.
Master indicated me by gestures to sit on the rocking chair. I parked myself on the chair built on two pieces of curved wood and it started swinging forward and backward, forward and back ward, giving me a lot of kid-appropriate joy. Sitting on the rocking chair was not only fun but also a stress bursting activity. I felt greatly relieved swinging on it.
“You have choicest books on your shelves Guruji,” I extended a sincere compliment; “you seem to be a great lover of books – a bibliophile.”
“Thank you my boy,” came a grave reply. “In fact books are my best friends for they dance with me in my moments of joy, they provide me solace in the moments of my despair, and they show me the light of hope when I feel trapped, cornered, exasperated and crestfallen. Books are the unmatched wellspring of constant inspiration and encouragement to everybody provided they have the right scruples to single out such books. Charles W Eliot had rightly judged that ‘books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.’ A good book is the garden in which you can roam about freely and pluck the soothing flowers of wisdom that best suits to your current set of circumstances in life.
“Guruji, can you please elucidate your last statement?”
“I will be more than happy to do that. When you advanced from the Hindi medium board to English medium and found yourself a fish out of water owing to the so-called tough syllabus and aristocratic ambience, what did you do to allay your weakness?”
“I spent my nights sleepless by either dipping my mind in the sea of worry and anxiety or watching television in an attempt to forget the pain of underperformance.”
“Absolutely horrendous, that’s a big Achilles heel which can drain your confidence and zeal out of your life and render you a living corpse! At these fateful moments you should walk in the garden of an inspiring book and kick up your self-confidence and morale by inhaling the courage boosting fragrance of the flowers of wisdom blooming all across that garden. Rather than squandering the time in unproductive activities like worrying or television watching put your time to best use by taking up a self enhancing book and assimilating its underlying message. In this context I admire the audacity of Groucho Marx who said that ‘I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book.’ Andrew Ross also articulates this message in his popular lines which reads ‘the smallest bookstore still contains more ideas of worth than have been presented in the entire history of television.’ A good book offers you inspiration, hope, guidance and strength to sail through the numerous dangerous challenges thriving in the sea of human life. Watching television to forget the pain of underperformance is akin to that of closing the eyes when you see a lion approaching towards you. Will the shutting of eyes at the advent of the beast save you in any way?” Master was teaching the precious and prestigious wisdom of LIFEMANSHIP in a way no teacher can ever teach in the educational institutions. He was as I said a mentor par excellence.
“Never even in the fiction, Guruji.”
“So you understand that you kill two birds in one stone when you instill the noble habit of healthy reading. You not only put the precious hours to best use but also develop common sense and wisdom of LIFEMANSHIP to tackle the perturbing problems of life wisely. ‘I have never known any trouble that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage’ said Charles De Second. Self help series books and ancient Indian literature are amazing mentors that open up unimaginable vistas of human possibilities for you to tap. Habit of healthy reading eliminates needless and negative thoughts and cultivates optimistic perceptions of life instead.”
“I had never thought in my fairest dream that reading habit can yield so many lasting benefits. Please edify me more on this, your holiness.” I was clearly intrigued by the Christ-like personality of Swami Ram and his ancient, unfailing wisdom.
“Your choice of the books should be in harmony with your aspiration. What is that you are aspiring for?
Think, what’s that you are aiming at?
Think, what are the short term, medium term and long term goals of your life?
Think, what’s the vision of your life?
Think, which point of the human life cycle you are standing at and what kind of books befit you at this point in time?
Think, how can I be affected or helped by the kind of selection of books I make for myself to read?
Think, will my present state of confidence and level of inspiration be escalated by the type of books I am currently reading?
Think, what impressions will I create in my subconscious mind by going through the kind of books I usually go through?
Think, ponder, contemplate, reflect, introspect on these questions and you will get an answer by the infinite intelligence dwelling within you behind the dark clouds of ignorance or at best pseudo-knowledge. The point that I am trying to hammer home is, success in life depends to a great extent upon the sort of books we peruse.”
“Healthy reading is such a wonderful immobile adventure that imparts vicarious feelings of a real life adventure to you. Yes. Adventure of surmounting the daunting difficulties of life, adventure of overcoming the seemingly indomitable weaknesses of mind, adventure of conquering the hearts of millions of people by implementing the sage counsel, adventure of undergoing exhausting hardships of self-discipline in order to spread the light of right knowledge and guidance on the path of the struggling souls vying for success. The great German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, well observed that, without books the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are the engines of change, windows on the world, Lighthouses as the poet said erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind, Books are humanity in print. Look into the life of great people like Abraham Lincoln, Sri Aurobindo, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Socrates, Albert Einstein, Aristotle, Thomas Alva Edison, JRD Tata, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg, APJ Abdul Kalam and many others and you will notice that they all had the passionate habit of reading prominent in them. They read worthy books and made phenomenal difference to the world will live in.”
I was truly touched by the life rewarding fact being revealed by the Christ-like sage who seemed to burn himself down in the fire of self-discipline to light up the world of others.
“And for God’s sake, Rishi, one should read to remember not to forget the life changing messages contained in the books. I have seen students who want a book to read when they are damn tired and they start leafing through as if reading is the last pastime they have vowed to pursue. Remember the immortal words of Charles Dudley Warner who asserted that ‘Nothing is worth reading that does not require an alert mind’. You actually read when you can recite the theme of that book months later. Therefore it’s important to read in order to learn, remember and then carry the ideas out into practice. What good it is to spend hundreds of hours in reading but imbibing no ideas that can be productively implemented to awake the sleeping genius within us? Hence one has to have a good choice of books and peruse them with singleness of mind in order to absorb the meaning which it intends to convey.”
“I understand Guruji, without imbibing the meaning or message of a book one should not look forward to another one. One should review mentally the essence or ideas which the mind has got the hang of so that implementation is effortlessly taken care of.” I dutifully paraphrased the lesson master had just taught me.
“Superb, Rishi, you are coping pretty fast with my training. You must be wondering as to why I am emphasizing so much on the choice of books?”
“I swear Guruji! How on earth did you come to know about it?” I was completely taken aback by his mind reading capability.
“This skill appearing stupendous to you is but a very small byproduct of religious practice of pillars of power I taught you a short while ago. There are two categories under which books can be bifurcated. First is fiction and second is non-fiction. Students who are not prepared to settle down for anything less than fabulously flying colors of super-success should totally avoid fictions in their formative age. This category of book doesn’t stretch or strain the brain because it is full of stuffs which an industrious and peak performing student will not like to read at all. In other words lethargic students promptly get carried away by the title and content of fictions as those students don’t like their brains getting stretched. They are fascinated by love stories, ploys, violence and other such craps which are detrimental to students’ mind. Rose Macaulay has firmly opined that ‘Many persons read and like fiction. It doesn’t tax the intelligence and the intelligence of most of us can so ill afford taxation that we rightly welcome any reading matter which avoids this.’ Little do such students know that they are actually running on a treadmill, and getting nowhere – they are trapped by the strong jaws of stagnancy. Non-fiction on the other hand demands a substantial exercise of ten pounds of grey matter resting between the two shoulders. An ordinary student will have to pull up his socks, roll up his sleeves and gird up his loin in order to plunge into the daring pursuit of attentively going through such books. Sutton Elbert Griggs has boldly stated that ‘it often requires more courage to read some books than it does to fight a battle’, and you will not remain the same Rishi, once you complete reading one such epoch-making book. You will experience for yourself the inspiration you shall receive when you go through the biographies and autobiographies of the successful dignitaries who made a difference to this earth in a thankfully remarkable fashion. You will feel charged with vigor like never before and will never be a burden to others and yourself.”
“I am sold on your idea of fitly selection of books, Master. You have really altered my long cherished notion of fiction and non-fiction.”
“Last thing that I would like to bring to your attention and urge you to enforce it in your healthy reading habit is ‘make optimum use of dictionary.’ Majority of the readers rush through the book overlooking the alien words in it which they are not at all acquainted with. Making use of a good dictionary in order to ascertain the meaning and connotation of such unfamiliar words and phrases is a magnificently rewarding attribute of an enthusiastic and farsighted student. Gone are the days when run-of-the-mill kind of English was an acceptable parameter for either admissions into good schools & colleges or recruitment into blue chip companies. Vocabulary and success work in harness with each other for a niche-carving accomplishment and no humbug about it.”
“I trust you Divine Master, but I must also admit that the power truth you have just disclosed was completely unknown to me. Such is the power impact of vocabulary!” I wondered aloud.
“Vocabulary tests are being used more and more as one of the crucial criteria in grading the ability of people. Duly stressing the importance of word power, William D. Templeman, former professor of English at the University of Illinois recounted, ‘at this institution the freshmen were subjected to a variety of aptitude tryouts. One of these was a 29-word vocabulary test. After some years of testing, the faculty thought that it might be interesting to find out whether the results of any of these tests might give a clue to the future scholastic standing of the students. To the surprise of those who conducted the investigation it was found that the unbelievably brief vocabulary test of 29 words was the most accurate prediction of the future general semester point average of the students for all courses. This led Dr. Templeman to say: “Mr. and Mrs. Parent and Mr. High School Principal, if you want your child to achieve success with his studies in college, look to his vocabulary!” There can’t be any other testimony as forceful as the observation of Dr. Templeman to the fact that the days of banal English have buried their dead and the era of ornamental and power English is prominently dominant. Scholars are of the opinion that the reading ability of people across the nation is that of 7th grade pupils. Surveys show that the average person cannot understand the content written above the level of 12 or 14 year old children. Where on the one hand the survey result is pathetic it also follows that you can outshine the competition by raising the standards of your vocabulary.”
“Wow! That’s a super helpful piece of information you have shared with me to gain me another unique ace up my sleeve. I wonder why I did not meet you years earlier, Master.” I expressed my sincere thoughts before the charismatic Swami.
“Every incident of your life is pre-destined Rishi, and that’s the reason why one should hold his horses at the moments of turbulence and wait for the right time to dawn. Now, don’t get me wrong my boy, I don’t suggest sitting comfortably at a corner of your house and waiting for the right time to come. Nope. I rather mean retaining your cool like a duck in a lake. A duck symbolizes pleasing serenity and composure but hardly one can imagine the rigorous paddling it clandestinely performs under the water, and that rigorous paddling is what keeps it moving ahead, at times against the current.” Swami chuckled at me as he was about to proceed his training further but got interrupted by a sudden shoot of a question from me.
“Divine Master, you just remarked that every incident is pre-destined but I have heard my father say that man is the architect of his future, the sculptor of his destiny. It’s nothing short of paradox if I accept both the statements as true. Kindly solve this baffling riddle, Guruji.”
Master’s lips stretched into an intelligent smile as he dipped his mind in the ever flowing river of wisdom that coursed ceaselessly within him. After a minute of contemplation his mellifluous voice broke the silence.
“Destiny is of two types, first is positive destiny and second is negative destiny. Although late but you came in contact with me; it’s your positive destiny. Negative destiny in ancient religious literature of east is further categorized into two. First category is called mild destiny and second one is called strong destiny. Mild destiny can be rendered futile and hollow with a lofty wisdom, good judgment and a fair amount of will power. Mild destiny can be tamed by wise approach, but none can escape the massive influence of strong destiny. One has to experience and suffer the blow of strong destiny as I said it cannot be reversed.”
“Master, can you suggest any plausible solution to combat the paralyzing impact of strong destiny?” I again jumped in. curiosity had caught the better part of me.
“There sure is,” Master shot back. “Although the demoralizing impact of strong destiny can’t be prevented, it can possibly be weakened. In other words you can lessen the effect of strong destiny by uncompromising hard work and unyielding will power. Let me explain with examples, albeit you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth you had to study in a Hindi medium school till matriculation. You find yourself disheartened as a result when you go to your new school having English medium curriculum. This is the best example of mild destiny. Its negative effect can be changed with a little bit of wisdom, guidance and perseverance. Now, take the acclaimed example of Helen Keller, an American social activist and philanthropist who was blind, deaf and partially dumb. She was actually affected acutely by strong destiny. The negative sway of strong destiny had robbed her of her most significant gifts of sight, speech and hearing from the seemingly impartial providence, but bravo, she took her physical deformities in right perspective and worked at her peak potential. Her physical frame has left this world but her legacy will continue to throb in the hearts of millions of people. I hope the grapple of paradox has freed you?” Master asked gently tapping my head with his heavy hand.
“As always Guruji,” I remarked with reverence in my eyes.
“Just to offer finishing touch to the pending instructions on word building for effective reading and ultimate success, I would like to quote Dr. Wilfred Funk, one of the world’s greatest authorities on words, who explained the idea in hand best when he observed that ‘I have done vocabulary testing for innumerable business concerns. Almost without exception the results were a remarkable indication of the salaries received. Even the vocabularies and the pay of the secretaries of executives usually followed the same ascending scale as that of the positions of the bosses whom they served. In one outfit that I remembered well, the two lowest-paid girls were poorest in vocabulary. Why shouldn’t this be so? Our knowledge of words is all that makes it possible for us to understand our associates or our friends. And it is only by words that we can impart ideas to others. Or command them to do our wishes. More important than this, we think with words. We can’t think without them!’ That’s a jaw-dropping revelation by Dr. Funk. The sum and substance of what I just trained you on is to read healthy, think better and perform bolder. Healthy reading supported by appropriate use of lexicon is the lighthouse that will save the ship of your life from the fatal hurdles in the sea of possibilities and guide you for a trouble-free voyage to your vision.”
“Your crisp explanation has sunk deep into my mind, Guruji. You are undoubtedly the gem of the monks, the epitome of mentors and paragon of teachers. The little known facts – charged with the limitless powers to transform the students’ life – that you have so generously showered on me has lent me a fresh perspective to look my life from. I feel enormously self-confident, self-assured and self-reliant in taking the bull of my school life problems by the horns. My patient ears are still with you, Guruji. Please continue.” A unique divinity within me voiced the aforesaid words.
Before Swami Ram could utter any further, he starred at the big oval shaped clock mounted at the wall and kept starring at it for little more than two minutes. Pin drop silence pregnant with suspense engulfed the stately library as the deathless Swami rested his body on the rocking chair placed by his side, quietly closed his eyes, collected his consciousness within and silently took the imports of the infinite intelligence. I played silent spectator and didn’t move an inch from the place I was standing for the fear of producing unwelcome noise. After a while Swami opened his eyes and jumped on his feet like an arrow from a bow.
“We got to rush darling, your parents are on a wild search for you.” Thus uttering he gripped my left wrist firmly by his right hand and headed for the exit gate. We crossed the holy place where I had found him seated majestically on a tiger skin and absorbed in deep meditation on invisible infinite. Darkness covered in darkness welcomed us with its mouth wide open and the Swami boldly led me into its daunting jaws. Three minutes of quick walk in the pitch darkness was not fearful to me this time. Even though I stumbled twice, I was promptly pulled up by the young muscles of the old Swami. Soon we came out of the cave and took the same path which had led me to this blessed place. I looked back to catch parting glimpses of the sacred cave which had proved to be a boon for me. I had no idea what time it was but looking at the sky I was able to decipher that it was somewhere between 04:00 PM to 05:00 PM.
“Start tilling the barren land of your mind with the giant plough of wisdom you have obtained from me, and commence it right from tomorrow morning.”
“From 04:30 AM onwards,” I offered happily.
“Smart boy,” Swami Ram patted my back.
Within a short while we were able to faintly behold the big luxurious saloon stationary at the empty place of parking a little ahead of the stupendous temple of Mahakaal.
“Hmmmm……the tempting large saloon over there must be your Rolls-Royce Ghost!” Master exclaimed with a quick wink, “Loknath has undoubtedly set his shoulder to the wheel in order to reach the coveted position he had once envisioned and that too without compromising on ethical, civic or social responsibilities. Both Amba as well as Loknath have lived a Spartan existence, and now it’s your turn to prove your blood Rishi for you have a long way to go and mountainous tasks to accomplish.” Master observed with an air of seriousness about him.
His gait slowed down considerably as we walked the woodland path and inched near the parking; I matched my pace with Master’s. All at once Swami Ram stopped and leveled his eyes on me.
“Good bye my boy, go and roam in this world like a lion of controlled senses. The secret wisdom to transform your life as a student that you have learnt today is precious than ‘Kohinoor’ and potent than ‘atom bomb’. Hence practice the techniques you have learnt with utmost faith and sincerity. Practice diligently, and never mind if you fail. Let not failures demoralize and weaken your steel resolution to attain the life of distinction, to acquire LIFEMANSHIP. The monkey mind will devise ploy to obstruct your ROYAL JOURNEY TO LIFEMANSHIP by fixing its eyes on the quick results and inviting frustrations, discouragement or boredom thereby; But you, my boy, should not get distracted at all. Stamp upon the mind’s conspiracy, crush it and it will calm down allowing the divine light to come. Perseverance will finally conquer, remember, Rome was not built in a day. Said the great Vivekananda, the will is stronger than anything else. Everything must go down before the will, for, that comes from God and God Himself; the pure and a strong will is omnipotent. God will give you enough strength to enter the kingdom of success.” With this benevolent counsel Swami turned about and started for his secluded parlor.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as the memories of the time spent with the Christ-like monk crossed my mind like endless swarm of bees crossing a paddy. I recollected his paternal love, sense of caring, kidlike simplicity, encyclopedic knowledge, practical approach, incisive mind, youthful vigor and dynamic personality. Parting with such a super-human was so melancholic that I felt my heart beats missing. I sobbed with crescendo intensity which caught the attention of Swami Ram and forced him to look at me. I ran to touch his holy feet and applied the dust stuck to his lotus feet to my forehead.
“Swamiji, please don’t leave without meeting my parents.” I made a humble request and was gathered by him in his solaceful arms
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